2011 Movie Scorecard: The Three Doubles

August 17, 2011

As I detailed in Monday’s blog, I feel that The Tree of Life is the one true standout, quality film in the first 8 months of 2011. Yes, there have been some other entertaining films like The Adjustment Bureau but none (with one exception noted in my last paragraph below) that seem to me to be strong contenders for a nomination for Best Film come Oscar time.

The first of the 3 “doubles” is Woody Allen’s wonderful, whimsical Midnight in Paris,  an inspiring film about following your heart and being genuine and true to ourselves. All around us today, we see people’s facades disintegrating because the face they show to the world is not a genuine reflection of their inner being. Owen Wilson’s character in the film has become so disenchanted with his own life that he literally can no longer live in his old persona. What a wonderful message to all of us. Be real. Be ourselves. Trust. Love. An adult film about adult themes in the summer.What a lovely surprise.The film also includes a surprising and  sweet homage to Somewhere in Time so , of course, that moved me as well. While a longshot, maybe Woody Allen will make it back into Oscar’s Top 10 this year.

Win Win was a  poignant reminder of the crushing financial stresses and moral dilemmas those pressures present to so many of us today. How far would we go, how much would we blur or even erase the line between our own integrity and our commitment to support our family? What happens when those lines intersect is the essence of the drama of Win Win.

Paul Giamatti, one of my absolute favorite actors, stars in the film and brings to it his trademark everyman wit, intelligence, decency, and humanity. His portrait of a man who compromises his own integrity is so real and so compelling that it takes on the aura of a common moral and societal predicament in this age of economic upheaval. While it unfortunately may be considered too “small” to be remembered by others at Oscar time, Win Win was a welcome oasis for those of us looking for movies with character, wit, and drama.

My last “double” so far in 2011 stars the wonderful and completely underestimated Will Ferrell. Everything Must Go is a fascinating, dramatic,  and deeply moving character study of a man who has literally thrown his entire life away because of his addiction to alcohol. In the first 5 minutes of the film, we see him fired from his job because of it. When he goes home, his wife has left him, locked him out of their home, and strewn all his belongings on the front lawn. In despair, he starts drinking again after 6 months of sobriety.

Oh, just in case you’re wondering, the movie is incredibly life-affirming, warm, poignant, and mesmerizing.

Will Ferrel is utterly brilliant, infusing his portrayal with a deep sense of humility, humanity, and heartbreaking honesty. No one who saw Mr. Ferrell’s wonderful dramatic turn in Stranger Than Fiction will be surprised to see how marvelous he is here.

Everything Must Go is an absorbing film that has much to say about who we are as human beings.

So, those are my 3 “doubles” for the year so far.

The “exception” I noted in my first paragraph is The Help. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Bryce Dallas Howard all give bravura, powerful, and even awe-inspiring performances that seem certain (and deserving) to be considered come Oscar time. Ms. Spencer, in particular, gives one of the great performances I’ve seen this year. It’s going to take a very special performance by another actress this year for anyone to even approach either Ms. Davis or Ms. Spencer on my list. Personally, however, I found the film itself (powerful, admirable, and engrossing as it is) to be extremely depressing and, as such, it is not going to be on my own nominating list for Best Film. I have a feeling, however, that my Academy brethren will be of a very different mind….as may you.

What are your favorite films so far in 2011?

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